By Aneesh Karuppur (V)
As the holiday season quickly approaches, the technology world continues to develop and grow. In this issue, let’s take a look at some good gifts and some not-so-good ones.
First off, the topic most relevant to the average Pingry student is Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro. They come with a scissor keyboard that feels deeper than the previous generation’s (2016-2019) butterfly keys. This new model also features a new TouchBar that has a physical Escape key and a fingerprint sensor/power button. The laptop comes with some incremental processor improvements, an (absolutely necessary) 8 terabyte solid-state drive, and a beefier battery. But the main selling point is the larger screen, which one-ups that of the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro. The screen is of a sufficiently high resolution, and the area surrounding the screen (the bezels) has been shrunk so a bigger screen can fit in about the same footprint as the outgoing 15-inch model. As is the case with Apple displays, the color accuracy is objectively unmatched among other laptops. The laptop still sticks with four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, which means that this can connect to a variety of devices (displays, external storage drives, GPUs, and other equipment) with a single cable. Pingry still recommends a dongle to go along with these relatively new ports, so I will recommend anything other than Apple’s overpriced USB-C dongles. Overall, the laptop is a nice upgrade and starts at the same $2,399 starting price as the old 15-inch model. If you are in the market for a new laptop for photo and video editing or coding and prefer a larger screen and more power options, this laptop is worth a look. An interesting note is that the upgrades for this machine will not be carried over to the 13-inch just yet, which will retain its issue-prone butterfly keyboard and large bezels. If you can hold out a few years for a 13-inch model, it may be worth it.
Another cool piece of tech that warrants discussion is Tesla’s Cybertruck pickup truck. This vehicle is boxy, sharp, and angular, and Tesla is billing it as an all-electric off-roading truck combination. Tesla also highlights features like “unbreakable” windows and a hefty steel structure. Surprisingly, it is not priced outlandishly: it starts at less than $40,000 and goes up from there. I can’t really make a recommendation, but if you want your utilitarian vehicle to stand out from the crowd, this is it.
Going back to Apple for a bit, let’s discuss Apple’s AirPods Pro. The new Pro label here doesn’t signify anything “professional” about these wireless earbuds, but Apple has made some meaningful changes. There are now swappable rubber tips to block noise more effectively, which perfectly ties in with Apple’s active noise cancelling feature. This means that repetitive, droning noises, like those in a subway ride or an airplane cabin, will be filtered out while the user is listening. The new AirPods Pro have some smaller touches, like vents to equalize the air pressure in the listener’s ears, and more actions that can be performed without taking out your phone (play, pause, skip track, etc.). They do come with Apple’s wireless charging case, albeit in a different shape. I think the AirPods Pro is cool, but more of a generous gift rather than a necessity. If you have the AirPods Gen 1 or Gen 2, I wouldn’t really recommend upgrading to these unless you really need noise cancelling in your life. Of course, the price is also higher than regular AirPods, so that is something to consider as well.
And, finally, a little holiday shopping advice––keep an eye out for any potential scams or fraudulent websites. Criminals have been using more sophisticated methods of phishing, like pretending to be the email address of a friend or family member, and it is often very difficult to detect this fraud at a glance. If an email asks you to enter your credit card information, Social Security number, or anything of the like, hover over the email address and search it up to make sure it is a legitimate email address from a major company or service. If a friend seems to be emailing you for money or a suspicious request, call or text the friend before you enter your information. Once the money is sent, it can be difficult to trace, and this is especially true with the advent of digital credit cards and financial services (Apple Card, Venmo, etc.).
If you’re careful and conscious, though, your holiday tech experience should be fun and rewarding. Happy shopping, and stay tuned for the next issue!
Aneesh Karuppur (V)
Some interesting things transpired in the tech world over the summer, and even more during the start of the school year.
Perhaps the most talked-about issue was the release of Apple’s new products in September, the most buzzy of which is the new set of iPhones. These include the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The feature everyone seems to be talking about are the new cameras; on the iPhone 11, there is now a second camera for enhanced zoom. On the iPhone 11 Pros, there are now three cameras: one for normal shots, one for closer ones, and one for an ultra-wide picture. The cameras also feature a new Night Mode, a concept likely pilfered from the previous “camera phone,” the Google Pixel. Night Mode uses software tools to brighten your image without making it grainy. It draws out details from all the black spots of your picture. Portrait mode has been updated, as has the camera app itself. It is now easier to look at and use. iPhones have long had 4K video (ultra-high-definition) abilities, and Apple is now advertising enhanced editing tools to go along with it. Finally, Apple is also selling “slofies” with the new batch of iPhones, which are essentially slow-mo selfie videos. I would consider the camera upgrades a reasonable selling point, but the “slofie” aspect is frankly not very compelling.
Other upgrades from last year’s phones include the improved glass casing and a faster chip that features more machine-learning capabilities. This means that the phone can better optimize various tasks and generally run faster during demanding tasks such as games and Schoology uploads. The new iPhones also come in some nice new colors, and have improved screens for quality and color accuracy.
All of this is well and good, but for me, it does not really add up to a compelling proposition. In fact, these last two years of iPhones have been fairly underwhelming. My recommendation is that, unless you have an iPhone 7 or older, or you really want the cool new camera features, this absurdly expensive update is not worth your money. Next year’s iPhones are rumored to have new designs and potentially 5G, the faster mobile data standard that some Android phones already have. For now, just upload the new iOS 13 on your existing phone and sit this update out.
Apple also announced some incremental upgrades in the Apple Watch Series 5, but I still recommend a Series 3 or a Series 4 if you can find one, as they have better value. Additionally, iPadOS on iPads can now better mimic a laptop operating system. To get a maximum bang for your buck, I recommend the regular iPad (or iPad Pro for artists) with a Logitech Crayon stylus (or an Apple Pencil for artists). These tablets should serve as good note-taking and art tools. Finally, Apple mildly updated their MacBook Pros by adding the TouchBar mini-touch screen, as well as some processor bumps. This last one gets a lukewarm recommendation from me—I am hoping that Apple will respond to recent leaps made by other manufacturers in the laptop industry and further improve their product.
Now that I have Apple’s news out of the way, let’s talk about Microsoft’s new line of Surface products. The Surface Laptop 3 is more of an incremental upgrade, but there is finally USB-C in the laptop. This port can connect to multiple displays, drives, or any other device through the use of a dongle instead of one individual port.
Microsoft also updated the Surface Pro 7 tablet with similar upgrades as the laptop. The new device here is the Surface Pro X, which is a clear iPad Pro copycat. It is more of a laptop than the Surface Pro 7 is, and comes with a harder keyboard. I still believe that a Dell XPS 2-in-1 would meet the needs of just about every Windows user except the extremely involved artist, so I don’t have a whole lot to recommend from Microsoft; they are charging Apple-level prices while Dell’s XPS’s are offering similar quality for significantly less money.
Finally, Samsung has announced its Galaxy Note 10 phones, which offer the best performance an Android phone can offer while still remaining svelte and making good use of the built in stylus (S-Pen). Personally, I am not a fan of Samsung devices, and the camera hole in the display is, in my opinion, a worse design than Apple’s notch. Regardless, the Note 10 is an impressive phone, and if you are willing to pay over a thousand dollars, it’s a solid buy.
That just about wraps it up for this issue’s tech column. I hope it helped you make more informed tech-buying decisions. Stay tuned for the next issue!
By Aneesh Karuppur ’21
Welcome back to The Pingry Record’s Tech Column! There’s a lot to talk about this issue — namely the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada — but there’s still exciting stuff going on back home at Pingry, too.
First up, Pingry’s Student Technology Committee (STC) has made a lot of progress over the season. Pingry’s Apple Authorized Service Provider, called The Bear Repair, has fixed many students’ computers since it was started this fall. The Bear Repair has done everything from troubleshooting problems to running official diagnostic tests to performing display and battery replacements. It provides the same level of service as an Apple Genius Bar, but without the hassle of driving to a different place or making an appointment far in advance. STC’s Apple Certified Mac Technicians (ACMT) are fully qualified and follow official procedures, and The Bear Repair’s pricing is lower as well. Check it out in the back of the tech office. Consultations, troubleshooting, and problem diagnoses are completely free! More ACMTs are being trained as this article is being written, so there will be even more available technicians in the coming months.
STC’s Tech Team has undertaken an endeavor to provide charging carts around the school, so students don’t have to leave their laptop in the tech office or sit in the library if it needs to be charged. The Charging Station team is currently working on the logistics and the placement of these carts and hopes to roll them out as soon as possible.
Tech Team is also working on getting the most out of the school’s 3D printer. New members are being trained on how to use computer-aided design (CAD) to make and print models. All students are allowed to use the 3D printer provided they design the models themselves.
In global tech news, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was a big deal. Computers, specifically gaming laptops, made a big splash at the show. Many high-performance computers were released with Nvidia’s latest RTX line of graphics processing units (GPUs). Additionally, laptop maker Gigabyte released a laptop that uses artificial intelligence to optimize power delivery. All of these innovations, while very expensive and not completely practical yet, point towards a software-driven future.
Another big theme at the show was new smartphones. Many manufacturers showed off unique designs, including smart flip phones, and more notably foldable phones. These devices are important since they feature screens that can bend almost a full 360 degrees. This could potentially mean more screen size in the same form factor and could increase portability. Companies like Apple and Samsung have developed proprietary knowledge and techniques in this technology due to their promises.
Virtual reality is also becoming more important. HTC, which makes the Vive headset, demonstrated a new eye-tracking technology that allows you to look around a virtual space without moving your head. Oculus debuted the Quest, a new headset which provides a virtual reality experience without the hassle of hooking up a computer. In fact, Pingry has both HTC Vive and Oculus headsets, and a desktop to power them, so students will hopefully be able to use virtual reality technology in their classes in the coming years.
By Aneesh Karuppur ’21
The December season is one of the most active for new technology, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday marking the beginning of the holidays. But before delving into the tech world at large, let us take a look at how the Student Technology Committee (STC) is making Pingry an even more technologically advanced school.
In early November, STC welcomed its new members for the 2018-2019 school year: Michael Sun (VI), Chris Gu (III), Lukas Strelecky (III), Jamie Wang (V), Sumant Sagar (IV), Abigail Rubino (III), Ashley Lu (V), Julian Lee (IV), Jessica Yatvitskiy (IV), Brian Li (III), Colin Wen (V), Katherine Xie (III), and Thomas Beacham (V).
Notably, STC announced that Pingry is now an Apple Authorized Service Provider that will go by the title “Pingry Bear Repair.” Students and faculty can have their Macbooks repaired and serviced at Pingry without having to drive out to the nearest Apple Store. Officially licensed and approved STC members will work carefully with Macbooks as technicians at any Apple Store would. Apple Certified Mac Technicians (ACMTs) are available during first flex and CP in the Tech Office.
STC will also be working on many other projects during the school year. For example, STC’s How Cards will provide helpful tutorials on all sorts of tech questions, conveniently arranged in the form of virtual notecards. The Virtual Reality Curriculum will be receiving many updates as well, and STC hopes to integrate the Virtual Reality headset and computer station into many more classes. The communications team will be working on providing websites to Pingry publications (an example can be found at www.students.pingry.org/record!) and any clubs that request one. The Pingry Today app will be be receiving some new features, and assorted coding projects and possible school-wide charging stations round out this exciting list of projects.
Turning back to the greater world of technology, Apple’s MacBook Air, one of the most popular and famous computers to ever be released, was finally updated after ten years. Long a staple of the Pingry 1:1 Program, the original MacBook Air was first launched in 2007 and was hailed as a light but fast machine for the ambitious student. The new MacBook Air features a brand-new processor, a memory bump, a much sharper screen, and a chassis made entirely out of recycled aluminum. The 128 Gigabytes model of the new Air starts at $1,199.
I personally do not recommend this laptop. If you are looking for a very light laptop, Apple’s normal MacBook is a better option. If you are looking to do a little more powerful work like modeling, photo and video editing, music production, and publications work, the base model MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar) is a much better option for just a little more money and is in fact the very laptop this column was typed on. The original MacBook Air was revolutionary, but the new one has effectively become redundant in Apple’s line-up.
In other Apple news, Apple also launched its new iPad Pro. It starts at $799, and is aimed at professional artists and content creators. It is very powerful, but runs iOS (just like an iPhone) and so is not a great option to serve Pingry students as a main device.
Apple also released its long-awaited update to the Mac Mini. The Mac Mini has been the cheapest way to buy a Mac, especially because it doesn’t come with a display or a keyboard. The new Mac Mini features updated components and better upgradability down the road. Due to the fact that this is a desktop computer, I don’t recommend it for students, especially if they already have a Mac laptop for school.
By Aneesh Karuppur ’21
Back to school means new teachers, new courses, and, of course, new technology. This past summer at Pingry, members of STC interned with the Technology Department. Under the guidance of Mr. Frantz, Mr. Azar, and Mr. Burkhart, two teams completed various projects to prepare the school for a new year.
The hardware-oriented tech team installed projectors and Roku streaming devices, prepared old equipment to be sold, repaired faculty computers, and completed a variety of other projects. The software-oriented code team successfully completed a more efficient version of the Pingry event approval system, taught the Python programming language to faculty, and designed a new curriculum for Pingry’s existing computer science courses.
Aditya Gollapudi (VI), a member of the Code Team, said this about the experience: “[We] felt very lucky to have so much trust placed in us by the [Computer Science] department. Not only were we given control over design decisions in a product that will hopefully be used by much of the administration, but we were also allowed to help shape the high school, middle school, and elementary school CS curricula. To have that level of trust in a high schooler is unique to places like Pingry.”
Noah Bergam (IV) also commented about his time as a member of the Tech Team: “Pingry’s tech internship was a lot more than just installing projectors and sorting inventory. As we worked and went on breaks, we were able to have interesting conversations about the tech world at large, about topics ranging from cryptocurrency to cars to Facebook’s data scandal. In these little conversations, I was able to learn a lot from my coworkers.”
Some exciting technology news has transpired in the world at large in the last few months. In September, Apple held its much anticipated iPhone and Apple Watch launch event. The new phones are the XR, XS, and XS Max. The iPhone XR, Apple claims, boasts the most advanced LCD in the industry. The iPhone XS and XS Max are Apple’s flagship phones this year, featuring sharper OLED screens. All of the phones use the Apple-designed A12 Bionic chip, which includes Apple’s Neural Engine for augmented reality and advanced camera capabilities. The XS features an improved rear dual-camera setup that expands on last year’s iPhone X, while the XR features a single rear camera.
The Apple Watch Series 4 features a 30% larger screen and a thinner design. As with last year’s model, it is available with cellular connectivity. It includes more activities to track workouts and can be equipped with an ECG (electrocardiogram) to determine your heart’s electrical activity. This makes it easier to monitor your heart and enables it to help alert you of any problems.
In August, Samsung released its flagship Galaxy Note 9 smartphone. It features an enormous amount of onboard storage, so you won’t have to worry about running out of space on your phone again. The phone also comes with its trademark S Pen, a stylus that can be used to write on the phone.
Finally, in July, Apple suddenly released its new line of MacBook Pros . . . and then immediately apologized once reports of overheating started rolling in. They soon after released a bug fix; the overheating is no longer much of an issue. They feature Apple’s in-house T2 chip, which bundles stronger security features with other (previously separate) controllers. I offer a word of warning about these new MacBooks: Apple has removed the data recovery port that was present in earlier MacBook Pros. If the logic board fails and you do not have a backup, your data may be lost.